julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

The Crepes of Wrath

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“I was straightening up the kitchen before embarking upon Crepes Farcies et Roulees when Eric said, ‘You know, you haven’t thrown a fit in a long time.  Like one of those where you smack your head against the wall and scream, ‘I hate myself!  I hate myself!’ over and over.’ Well, I thought, surely Crepes Farcies et Roulees will provide ample opportunity for practice.” – Julie Powell

Yesterday’s big disappointment came when I looked forward to crepe casserole leftovers all morning, only to discover that I accidentally grabbed the wrong Tupperware and was faced with a tub of raw crepe batter for lunch.

Le sigh.

I decided that was my cue to go ahead and whip up the rest of the crepes for dinner last night, so I made Crepes Farcies et Roulees (stuffed and rolled French pancakes) with Fondue au Gruyere (cream filling with Swiss cheese and mushrooms) topped with Sauce Chivry (herbal white wine and tarragon sauce). Three recipes for the price of one! 

With this dish, you can either serve the crepes rolled and sautéed in butter or lined in a baking dish topped with sauce and cheese and broiled. I thought it would be more interesting to give the broiler a try, so I opted for the second suggestion. I began by cooking 6 crepes and was excited to see that I had really gotten the hang of it – four of the six were perfect, and the other two weren’t all that bad. I set them aside on a plate and focused on the filling. 

Those aren't raisins...they're mushrooms for the crepe filling.

I cooked some butter and flour in a saucepan and stirred with a wooden spoon until the mixture was almost a paste. I added some boiling milk, which thinned out the contents of the pan – almost too much, I worried – but as I continued stirring, it thickened up on its own. A pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper topped it off, and then a single egg yolk was added to the center of the pan. I mixed it all together, then added some grated Swiss cheese and chopped mushrooms and shallots. When everything was well blended, it took on the consistency of a porridge (the mushrooms did kind of look like raisins…). I plopped a spoonful of filling toward the bottom of each crepe, rolled them up and set them in a buttered baking dish. 

All the components for the sauce: boiling milk, sauce bechamel, wine and herbs

The sauce was similar to the one I had made the other night, but this time I added herbs and wine. I started with a Sauce Bechamel, but meanwhile heated some vermouth with tarragon and shallots in a small pan. Once it had boiled down to a couple of tablespoons, I strained it into the béchamel sauce to get the flavors from the herbs without actually adding them to the recipe. (At this point, the aromas of the herbs with the wine were amazing!) I poured this sauce – which looked like cream gravy – over the crepes in the baking pan and topped with a bit of shredded Swiss cheese. I set the pan under the broiler for about 10 minutes until the top was turning a golden brown. 

Ole! Mexican enchiladas or French crepes? You decide.

When I took the pan out of the oven, I couldn’t help noticing that the crepes looked like cheese enchiladas. I used a spatula to remove them from the pan and plate them. I was surprised to see that the sauce wasn’t overly soupy – just sort of a topping that stayed in place rather than something to ladle over the dish. We gave the crepes a try, and had mixed reviews. Ben was a big fan of this meal, but I found it kind of bland. The mushrooms gave it some texture, but not much – everything was just sort of soft and creamy. The sauce needed something – more salt? – and didn’t do much for me. And there was a certain flavor that stuck out (maybe the crepe batter?) that didn’t really fit with the rest of the flavors and distracted my tastebuds. Overall, I just felt like this meal wasn’t worth the calories. 

Two mushroom crepes with cheese sauce

The big surprise came toward the end of our first crepe, when we noticed a little spice that kept building until it was almost unbearable. It was the cayenne pepper. I didn’t even use that much, but it really made its presence known. (Ben had to resort to a few bites of sherbet to put the fire out. Tough break, huh?) I really don’t like spicy foods, and would certainly omit this ingredient … if I ever made this again. Which I don’t see happening. 

All in all, I have to give this recipe a thumbs down. The best part about it was getting to make the crepes, because that part’s pretty fun. This meal just didn’t do anything for me. With the exception of the cayenne pepper, I suspect the real culprit was the sauce. The next time I make crepes, I think I’ll try something completely different – like a tomato sauce, or something flavorful like that. Either way, I’m looking forward to dessert crepes – I think those will really be something to write home about. 

What can I say? You can’t win ‘em all. 

C’est la vie!
– Jessica

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